I know that Irisviel and Saber have always been a popular pairing in the fandom ever since Fate/Zero and I can’t really complain about it as a ship. Compared to a lot of other ships at least these two have some sort of emotional connection that would allow them to feasibly have a romantic relationship or at least a sexual attraction as opposed to “I just think it would be hot if they boinked.” The thing is I realized that I never got into the ship mostly because in my heart I already had what I felt was a superior match-up. Rin and Saber is my far preferred pairing. They just seem to have a bit more chemistry but that is almost certainly a matter of preference as opposed to fact. That is also a little more obvious attraction between Saber and Rin during the visual novel but Rin’s bisexual nature is also a lot more pronounced in the game for obvious reasons. Fate/Stay Night is a porn game when push comes to shove. While it is almost surely more there for titillation purposes than increased depth of character it still lends a bit more credence to there being a possibility of a relationship.
I won’t deny that I also just think they are aesthetically attractive together but I also try to think about some amount of personal compatibility between the characters on top of that.
I would also say that my primary ship is Shiro and Saber but most people would find that ship boring, and possibly the romantic equivalent of nails on the chalkboard, but such is my taste. I’m just saying if I had to go for a yuri pairing this is my choice hands down. I am in luck because this is the episode where that coupling really gains even more traction here than it did in Fate.
Just when it seems that Rin and Shiro had caught a break after defeating Caster and saving Saber they find if it were not for bad luck they would not have any luck at all. Archer has turned against them and finally declared his true purpose has always been to kill Shiro. At first it seemed that Rin contracting Saber as her servant would have turned the tide but Archer’s use of Unlimited Blade Works lets him escape with Rin as a hostage. Shiro is determined to finally settle his ideological dispute with Archer at the ruins of the Einzbern Castle but Shinji and Gilgamesh add another level of complexity to the confrontation. But a man in blue offers his help to the beleaguered Saber and Shiro.
I might as well get this out of the way so I don’t have to talk about it in every paragraph. Clearly the big reveal of who Archer is coming in the next episode. So in many ways this episode acts as a detective’s dénouement of Archer’s identity. The plot brings back all the previous clues we have had to who Archer surely is so that anyone who does not already know the answer but is trying to figure out who he is has one last chance to put everything together. That does mean we get a bit of people saying things that clearly indicate they know the answer but decide not to say it out loud so it can still theoretically be a surprise when the cat is finally let out of the bag. The final clue of Rin implicitly saying that heroes can come from the future and even be summoned into the same place and time as their younger selves pretty much spells things out. The fact that Shiro mentions that he has had an inkling of who Archer was from the start (even if subconsciously) is everything but the detective pointing his finger at the true culprit.
Most of this scene is a game of turnabout is fair play. At first Archer is on top as Shiro and Rin have spent all their reserves surviving the fight Caster. While Archer is pretty banged up after fighting off Lancer he still has the high ground in almost every sense. Saber would normally be a threat but without a Master she might actually be currently the weakest person as she has spent almost all of her personal energy resisting Caster’s influence. She is fading away throughout the fight like she was Marty McFly. But the tables are turned when Rin becomes Saber’s Master. While Saber can’t spam Exclaibur blasts she is now back to being a force to be reckoned with. But all of that changes when Archer pulls out his trump card.
I will admit I was a little saddened that they did not use any Emiya I assume they are saving that for the next episode.
Unlimited Blade Works. The Nobel Phantasm that launched a thousand memes. It always has a very distinct visual landscape paired with the memorable (if a little silly) chant that makes it stick with people. Also as someone who loves swords it has always really appeals to me but I don’t seem to be alone in that admiration.
It is easy to forget how big a deal a Reality Marble is in the end. The characters certainly make a fuss about it but unless you step back and think about the scope of such an ability it can seem just like another power. The ability to draw people into a pocket dimension of your soul where the rules of said universe favor you and your battle style is not chump change.
Of course the real revelation of this fight is how well suited Shiro is to this world. Archer being able to spam swords like his was the King of Heroes is hardly shocking. Shiro being so compatible to this world rules is the bigger (if somewhat obvious) surprise. It is a nice taste of what is to come. This is the first real solid sword summoning battle that heralds even more exciting ones in the future.
Random note: Depletion Garden would totally be broken in Fate/Stay Night. While it would not have been that powerful in Tsukihime (in fact it never comes up in the game proper) but it could take out Masters and Servants in Fate like they were paper tigers. Once a Master’s and Servant’s mana is gone they are pretty much hosed. So it turns out that Sacchin is the most deadly possible participant in the Holy Grail War.
Lancer still being a bro. It is amusing to see Saber being utterly shocked seeing such a congenial guy since she has last seen him. While it has become clear to Rin and Shiro that Lancer is a good guy in a bad situation Saber still just sees him as the deadly adversary from before. So there is a certain comedic element to Shiro and Lancer just shooting the breeze like work acquaintances while Saber is still on guard.
OK. I might just be a dumb dumb but I finally was able to reconcile Archer’s previous flashbacks through Rin thanks to this. I am sure everyone else had long since figured it out but it finally clicked with me. For the longest I was trying to understand why all of Rin’s views into Archer’s past would look like they were from the past when Archer is a hero from the future. It turns out that my mistake was assuming these peeks into Archer’s head were from his time as a magus in the future. They make it much more explicit that these are in fact visions from his time as a Counter Guardian. That makes sense since this was the time he really lost his positive outlook and idealism as he was repeatedly thrown into situations during the worst moments of human history. In the visual novel they don’t really show any of this on-screen so Rin gets parts of Archer’s history as Emiya and EMIYA and they don’t really make a distinction about it. That sort of vagueness does not work in a visual medium.
Also avoiding portraying the future can help prevent embarrassing faux pas when your predictions of how the future will be are utterly wrong. Like this the audience can just insert in the future they expect to see as opposed to some dated prediction.
Update: Shinji is still horrible. I’m pretty sure no one had forgotten this but it is worth mentioning again. Is Shinji really Shinji if he is not threatening sexual violence against members of the Tohsaka family? (By the way that is a rhetorical question.) The funniest part is when he is threatening Archer is if he was the one who would personally take down Archer. You can almost feel Gilgamesh’s eyes roll at the comment. Gilgamesh might have found Tokiomi Tohsaka boring but at least he was a boring guy worthy of some modicum respect. Gilgamesh is clearly just amusing himself with Shinji’s horrible antics until he can unleash his actual plans.
Then Shinji can get what he deserves.
I always like Faker/Fakir conflict that starts with Archer and Gilgamesh in this scene. At first it seems nothing more than trash talk but the whole imitation vs the original nature of Gradation Air kicks off here and I always thought worked well with the ideas of the dichotomy of your real self and the person you portray yourself to be. But all of that will really come into fruition later on. For now the seed have just been planted.
Did I mention I really like that we finally got Saber out of that silly dress? She is sexy enough as is. We don’t need her lowering her stock as an admirable lady with such antics.
Most of this end scene is just Shiro convincing Saber that his fight with Archer is his and his alone. While Saber could easily end this fight (see the Fate/Hollow Ataraxia fight on the bridge) Shiro needs to confront both Archer and himself. Of course in many ways that is the same thing … but not exactly. It is the Dark Link fight with a philosophical bent.
We also see Lancer again who is clearly earning himself some good karma with the female audience. Too bad being summoned as a Lancer means that things are not going to turn out well for him.
Really the next episode is the climax of the series. There is still a lot to do after the Shiro and Archer fight but his is really the accumulation of all the themes and tension of the arc. Everything past that point is falling action. I am sure that the budget for the next episode or two will probably be the highest for anything other than maybe the last episode. If you’re any sort of aficionado for keyframes then you should be paying attention next week. It is going to be good.
Previous Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works posts:
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works #017 – Boot to the Head
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works #016 – Another Spin
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works #015 – When You Dream
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works #014 – All in Good Time
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works #013 – Break Your Heart
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works #012 – The Empire Strikes Back
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works #011 – The Silly Faces of Taiga Fujimura
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works #010 – The Bushwhackers
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works #009 – The Issei Strip Mahjong Game
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works #008 – There’s a Shortage of Perfect Breasts in this World
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works #007 – Curse Your Sudden but Inevitable Betrayal!
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works #006 – Shiro the Puppet
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works #005 – The Silly Faces of Rin Tohsaka
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works #004 – A Good Neighborhood Tiger
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works #003 – Spoilers: Archer Uses a Bow
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works #002 – Emiya Visits the Rip-Off Church
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works #001 – People Almost Forgot Shiro is the Hero
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works #000 – Archer the Combat Butler